We should all be disturbed by how true this is.

“The centrifugal forces are becoming dominant” – Lee Hamilton, quoted by Pat Buchanan on Morning Joe

A Partisan Dictionary

Editor’s note: We write Friday’s Purple State of Mind column then usually post it here Monday. Today is no exception but we do it with sadness as some of what we describe here has gone to seed this weekend in the tragic shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, her staff and other innocent victims in Arizona. Please forgive the somewhat flip tone. Our self-deceptions in how we talk about things can get very very serious.

We’ve got Oxford Unabridged and French-English, heck we’ve even got Urdu-English. But as far as I know there isn’t such a thing as a partisan dictionary. We think it’s high time to remedy the oversight.

Language has a long history of being twisted and torqued to make feuding points. Take the fact that in certain quarters these many years later you’ll still hear references to the “War of Northern Aggression.” Language choice heavily implies causality, justness of cause, and suggests appropriate action. Language can also be fact-bending in ways that damage civic discourse (and certainly damage problem solving based on “facts” that turn out to not be true).

Word choice can strongly suggest an amazing number things about the speaker. For example, references to the “Democrat” party are usually made by heavy talk radio listeners and Fox News watchers, as they don’t represent the name that the actual Democratic party chooses to be called. I’m not sure I get the point of this particular language battle – except maybe bullying – but this kind of linguistic battle can be damaging to both sender and receiver of such ill-willed verbiage, because there is always a fair amount of coming and going around. (more…)

Conversing in the land of the food fight

Wednesday night Keith Olbermann gave the “Worst Person in the World” bronze to “the ludicrous new political organization No Labels. It’s sales pitch is it’s nonpartisan. It’s sales pitch is in part plagiarized…”

He gigged them for using a logo that belonged to another organization (a charge that is true).

But Olbermann went on, into the familiar character assassination zone that for me has long made listening to Limbaugh and Beck require an IV drip of Valium (and propelled me to start The Village Square): “Nice start for No Labels which – since it is a bunch of fraudulent conservative Democrats pretending to be moderates and fraudulent Republicans pretending to be independents – they really should have stuck with a different animal motif: Maybe wolves in sheep’s clothing.” (more…)

Good guys and bad guys in 21st century America

When I go to back to school night and when I pump my gas and when I buy my groceries, I don’t meet people the likes of which I meet in the cable TV world or the talk radio world. It’s like Saturday morning wrestling: Remember when Vince McMahon was on in Philly and they had the grand wizard of wrestling and they had the good guy and the bad guy and it was all so predictable, you knew what they were going to do and say. That’s what we’ve become. — Michael Smerconish

Tom Brokaw: Bridging the Divide

“…We all got in this together and we’re only going to get out of it working together. You can put blame across the board. A lot of the things that happened happened in the first six years of the George W. Bush administration. We went to war in two countries and didn’t ask anything of the American people. We have an unfunded prescription drug benefit in Medicare that’s now up to 1 trillion dollar deficit. And we didn’t create jobs. And the Democrats were pushing the idea of home ownership on people who were clearly not qualified to sign the papers at the end of the day for what they were buying.” –Tom Brokaw on Morning Joe

Brokaw will be hosting a special on USA Network this Friday at 7 PM called “Bridging the Divide.

What do you think: More brain, less gut?

“The right can bellow from the gut. They hate government and the taxes necessary to pay for it. They don’t even have to think about it. The left can also bellow from the gut. They don’t like big business, they love activist government. They can call for more government and the taxes to pay for it without shame. It’s not so easy when you’re a liberal president trying to lead a centrist country in a difficult time. It’s not so easy following your gut when your brain warns you that this is precisely what everyone else in the country is doing: Yelling from their gut and calling people names.” –Chris Matthews, Hardball last night

Ross Douthat: On airport security, we’re partisans first, ideologues second (we wonder when we become just Americans)

There’s a great article in today’s New York Times about the inconsistency of the argument on the new TSA airport body scanners given the ultra partisan environment today. The article certainly supports the notion advanced by our next Village Square Dinner at the Square guest Bill Bishop that we have been sorting ourselves out into “tribes” for decades now and that the pull of group think within those likeminded groups (and the lack of trust between “tribes”) is very very strong. Noticing that partisans have taken quite opposite and ideologically inconsistent positions under different presidencies (whether it’s your party’s or not) Ross Douthat writes(more…)

David Brooks: It’s really about whether you believe in the founders’ vision of equilibrium or not

David Brooks channels Village Square in Monday New York Times op-ed:

“For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts. It wasn’t because they were unpartisan or smarter or more virtuous. It was because they were constrained by a mentality inherited from the founders. According to this mentality, a big successful nation exists in a state of equilibrium between its many factions. This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character). (more…)

Clinton + Bush

Larry King interviewed George H.W. and Barbara Bush last night – an interview I’d highly recommend you catch if you can see it in its entirety (I think they replay over the weekend). Most Americans will hear the sound byte of Mrs. Bush zinging Sarah Palin that managed to make our daily media do-loop, but here’s what we thought was the relevant news:

President George H.W. Bush: “I have a very good personal relationship with [Bill Clinton].

Larry King: (to Barbara Bush) “What do you think of his relationship with Bill?” (more…)

Campaign 1800’s: Hermaphrodite raised on hoe-cakes

A footnote: I love this video but they join the “War on Context” with the snarky “try cracking a history book” at the end as – while they are exactly correct that foul things have been said in the name of campaigning through history, they get a Village Square rap on the knuckles for doing some major cherry picking.
First of all, we should note that the Jefferson and Adams campaign was ultimately the first election in human history with a peaceful transition of power from one party/group of people to another… let’s just say given the unique feat they were undertaking, it’s not that hard to imagine that tensions ran high. The standard way to handle it up until then was with bayonettes.   (more…)

Washington Post: “Widening disconnect between the polarized political system and less-polarized public.”

Why’s this happening? According to the op-ed’s author Robert Samuelson:

“First, politicians depend increasingly on their activist “bases” for votes, money and job security (read: no primary challenger). But activist agendas are well to the left or right of center. So when politicians pander to their bases, they often offend the center. In one poll, 70 percent of registered voters said Republicans’ positions were too conservative at least some of the time; 76 percent likewise thought Democratic positions often “too liberal.”

Second, politics has become more moralistic from both left and right. Idealistic ideologues campaign to “save the planet,” “protect the unborn,” “reclaim the Constitution.” When goals become moral imperatives, there’s no room for compromise. Opponents are not just mistaken; they’re immoral. They’re cast as evil, ignorant, dangerous, or all three. (more…)

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ad

Hard to imagine an ad much worse than the one Tennessee Democratic Senate candidate is running against Republican Rand Paul (below). Paul’s response ad (still looking for it online) didn’t beat it but gave it a run for it’s money. Eww, just ewwww.

Kathleen Parker: Oy

Must read Kathleen Parker column:

Political parties, meanwhile, have distilled themselves so completely to their essences that they have caricatured themselves into cartoonish self-parody. Witness the recent town hall wherein President Obama’s audience was culled from a casting call and the Republican ad campaign in West Virginia that sought “hicky” people.

Oy, as we say down South. Republicans and Democrats are so busy pointing fingers, they fail to see what is plainly obvious. They are mirror images of each other and each is equally cynical and corrupt.

Read the whole column HERE.